September 2009: Living with memories

September 2009: Living with memories

Andrea Copeland puts it best herself: “You can turn on the TV every day and see me doing something different.” The host of three ongoing shows on Charlottesville Public Access Television (Channel 13), she has a platform to talk about all kinds of things that interest her—from local nonprofits (on “Inside Nonprofits”) to breast cancer survivors (on “Speaking with Andrea”) to racism and classism (on “Breaking the Chains”).

“I’m not bound to doing depressing things,” she says. “I think we get enough of that. We can talk about serious issues, but I like to end it on a high note.”

She herself is on a high note at the moment, having just founded a TV production company called Positive Channels. Three years ago, though, when she moved into her apartment off Commonwealth Drive, she was going through what she calls “a rough time in my life.” She was just back from New Jersey, where she’d been trying to pursue a broadcasting career. It hadn’t worked out, and around the time she decided to come home to Charlottesville, where she was born and raised, her paternal grandfather died.

It was a sad time for Copeland and her close-knit family. But when her relatives urged her to take the furniture from her grandparents’ Esmont house, it became much more than a lucky break for someone in the process of apartment-hunting. It became a way to knit the past together with the present. Now, her living and dining rooms are a living (and comfortable) link to the home where she’d visited her grandparents as a child.

“To see how everything worked out, in the midst of all that pain and sadness, much good came of it,” she says.—Erika Howsare

“Everything from the china cabinet, the dining room set, the sofa, the coffee table and these two chairs belonged to my grandparents. When I came back from New Jersey, I had no furniture. I was temporarily living with my parents and got a second job to buy furniture. Then my grandfather died in March 2006. We were trying to settle the estate, and everybody else [in the family] already had everything. [My cousins said,] ‘Take this furniture.’

“At the time, it really didn’t have meaning to me until we put it in place. It’s nice to be able to come into my home and know that this was my family. My dad is so happy to keep it in the family.

“The china cabinet is near and dear to my heart because everything in it was my grandparents’ (china and glassware). I would go to their house [as a kid] and see [these dishes], but just never paid attention to them. As I’m cleaning everything and putting it away, my mind is constantly on my grandparents. I particularly love the hummingbird goblets. At Christmastime I change it all to Christmas dishes. It weighs a ton; my father said, ‘It’s staying there until you move!’

“I do remember sitting at the table. I was telling my dad, I want to get some furniture polish to cover this up [worn places on the tops of the dining room chairs]. He said no, it adds meaning. And it does. To know they sat at the table for years; [to think of] the years they pulled these chairs out. They had this table since 1980-something. They were very good at taking care of their furniture.

“Grandpa used to sit in the wingback chair, and my grandmother would sit in the rocker. I can remember exactly where it was in their house; [the wingback] sat beside the organ. I sit there all the time with [my cat] Curly behind my head, because I like to look out the window.

“That Afghan is one my grandmother knitted. To sit on her couch and wrap up in the Afghan, they’re here with me. When I’m in this room, to sit here when I’m working on producing the shows, everywhere I move it’s a reminder of my grandparents.”